Teach For America's true colors show during strike

Just another cog in the school privatization machine:

The tensions came to a head this week when hundreds of Teach for America alumni criticized the educator placement program for suggesting corps members who strike in Oakland would lose thousands of dollars promised to them at the end of their two-year service commitment.

Teach for America said there was a misunderstanding on the guidance it provided about the strike that could start next week. It said it gave the same message to other members facing recent strikes, including in Los Angeles.

I have a very good friend who took the TFA route several years ago, after receiving her Bachelor's in Communication. Don't know all the details, but she is no longer teaching. Two years in an inner-city school burned her out like a short candle. Their five week "boot camp" doesn't even come close to preparing TFA members for that particular high-stress job, but it looks like that is not their goal anyway. Creating a teacher pool for charter schools has become their main function:

Teach for America launched nearly three decades ago as a radical teacher recruitment and preparation model, placing high-achieving college graduates without formal education training into short-term jobs in low-income communities. The nonprofit vets its recruits, but they're employed by school districts, and many join unions.

The program has been credited with alleviating teacher shortages in difficult-to-hire schools and building a dedicated force of education policy and school leaders.

But the nonprofit has faced skepticism, both for its design and its perceived alliance with charter schools — another reform effort competing with the public school model for funding.

Teach for America has billed itself as a leadership program, rather than just a teaching organization. It says 34 percent of its alumni remain teachers, with a significant number working in charter schools.

Bolding mine. Teaching has a high turnover rate, but 2 out of 3 quitting after two years is very telling. Those folks are having to start over again, basically from scratch. And most of the rest ending up in charter schools smells a lot like "white flight" into segregated schools.

But when you have a business plan like TFA's, that turnover makes you even more money:

When public school districts hire teachers from Teach For America, they pay a greater upfront cost than if they hire traditional entry-level teachers. This is because TFA charges finder’s fees for every “corps member” they supply. In addition to the salary and benefits school districts pay each teacher, districts also must pay the national organization, typically between $2,000-$5,000 per corps member, per year. Though generally overlooked, these finder’s fees are salient to many of the key issues in the national debate over TFA’s harm and benefit to public education.

To put the finder’s fees in perspective: If one city’s TFA cohort, consisting of 200 corps members, comes with an annual finder’s fee of $4,250 for each teacher recruited from the organization—then that cohort’s two-year commitment will cost the district an additional $1,700,000 in dues to the organization. This is not a trivial sum for school districts experiencing massive budget shortfalls.

Get that? Not only are (public) school systems paying the salaries of arguably unqualified teachers, they're forking out substantial "finders fees" for those unqualified teachers. And then they're doing it again two years later, because nearly all of those TFA teachers are gone.

The scam would be brilliant if it wasn't so disgusting.



The Teach for America scam

This open letter is probably the best summary I've seen of all the problems with Teach for America. At its heart, its methods go completely against the organizaiton's stated aim of overcoming inequality in education - it foists young, inexperienced teachers into classrooms without proper training and support, giving kids a worse experience than they would otherwise have. Take this first-hand experience of just one teacher, for example.

There's big money behind Teach for America from conservatives and charter school advocates like the Walton family. And there's a reason for that is pretty obvious when you take a good look at what they're doing.